7 Movies That Are Super Offensive To Native Americans

Fact: People view Native Americans as imaginary creatures instead of real people with tons of different groups, languages, and traditions. Not convinced that people deny Native Americans their humanity? Think of how many people dress up as a Native American every year for Halloween. Think about how many people rock Native inspired headdresses to music festivals, totally ignorant to the fact that those headdresses have actual meaning. Think about the fact when people think of Native Americans, they are more likely to think of of Pocahontas or Tiger Lily and stern faced chiefs saying “How” as a greeting instead of, I don’t know, real people. Like, there’s definitely a Native American teen girl living in New Mexico who listens to Five Seconds Of Summer. It’s not like they’re all Disney characters.

Sure, not every single Native American is going to find this list offensive, but the ones that are definitely aren’t just being too sensitive. If the average person barely considers Native Americans to be anything beyond magical creatures from a long time ago, should we be surprised that Hollywood doesn’t give them the respect they deserve either? From tired stereotypes to cringeworthy whitewashing, check out these seven movies that are super offensive to Native Americans. Warning: You’re probably a big fan of a couple of them.


Peter Pan

Oh, where to start? With the Native American chief who is literally red? Tiger Lily as the stereotypical Indian princess? Or maybe with the song in it that's called "What Makes The Red Man Red?" Seriously, go on YouTube and listen to the lyrics. The word "injun"--an offensive, outdated word for Native Americans--is used liberally in this song, along with plenty of uses of "how." Seriously, check out this snippet:

What made the red man red? What made the red man red? Let’s go back a million years to the very first Injun prince. He’d kiss a maid and start to blush and we’ve all been blushin’ since.

Uh, weird. I know that this is an old movie, but that doesn't make it any less racist.

Peter Pan/Disney

The Lone Ranger

So Johnny Depp plays Tonto, a Native American in the movie The Lone Ranger. While Johnny claims to have Native American ancestry, that hasn't stopped critics from ripping apart the movie for having lazy stereotypes about Native Americans that seemed more fitting for a 1950s Western than a movie in the 21st century. If you want to read a really good break down of why this movie is so effed up, read this blog post from Native Appropriations.

The Lone Ranger/Disney

Pocahontas

Don't get me wrong, Pocahontas was my jam, but it also included a lot of depictions of the Native Americans as unnecessarily angry and savage. Um...they were getting taken over by Europeans, how were they supposed to act? Polite? Pocahontas is depicted as the middle man between these blood thirsty "Indians" and confused Europeans. Basically, she's characterized as a good, noble native. I can see why some side-eye it.

Pocahontas/Disney

Pan

This dark version of the classic, Peter Pan, stars Mara Rooney as Tiger Lily. Why is this offensive. Uh, well, Tiger Lily is Native American. Mara is a white woman.

Who...thought that this was okay? How many think pieces need to be written before people stop casting white people for non-white roles? And why don't we critique the actors who accept these whitewashed roles more?

Pan/Warner Bros.

The Ridiculous Six

This movie hasn't even come out yet, so consider this a preemptive strike. The Ridiculous Six became the subject of controversy back in April when Native American actors stormed off of the movie set. Why? Apparently the film had loads of racist depictions of Apache culture. Also, actors were reportedly doused in bronze makeup to look more Native American (as if that has one look). As if that isn't gross enough, names of the Native American characters apparently included "Beaver Breath" and "No Bra." Haha, Native Americans and their dumb names, right? Barf.

The Ridiculous Six/Netflix

Dances With Wolves

Here's the quick and dirty about Dances With Wolves: White American soldier interacts with these Native Americans. He decides that he likes the Native Americans. He gets bummed out by the fact that his fellow white American soldiers want to kill all the Native Americans and take their land. Dude decides to lead the fight against the evil white colonizers! Rawr!

Okay, this white savior BS is so annoying, first of all. Second of all, it was weird that our white hero was teaching the Native Americans basic fighting skills, as if they've never known how to fight or hide in their own terrain before. Like...uh, okay. Sure, bro.

Dances With Wolves/Orion Pictures

Avatar

Okay, okay, I know you're probably like, "Um, Ashley, the Na'vi are fictional beings, not Native Americans. They don't exist." Yes, I know, but that hasn't stopped people from critiquing it the same way that white savior films about Native Americans are critiqued. Listen, the Na'vi were basically the most obvious stand-ins for Native Americans ever. It's almost a joke. This is basically the sci-fi version of Dances With Wolves. It even has a "white savior" problem, too! Throw in some bow and arrows, a romance with a beautiful pseudo-native woman, and a battle against evil colonizers...it is literally like Dances With Wolves and Pocahontas had a blue baby.

This can easily be brushed off a stretch, but it's worth thinking about.

Avatar/20th Century Fox

 

Which of these movies do you low key love? What other movies should be on this list? Tell us in the comments!

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  • Yih Dzelonh

    When Dances With Wolves came out -and even still- I had the impression that it was as authentic and awesome a movie that has ever been made. Can’t understand why Natives would find this movie offensive -unless too many Natives are too sensitive to ‘mis-perceived’ offensive elements that don’t really exist…

  • Morgan

    Have to get this out of the way first: her name is Rooney Mara, not Mara Rooney.

    I think it is somewhat offensive for her to play Tiger Lily, however this movie could be different and I don’t think people should jump the gun. Are they even supposed to be Native Americans in this new film? They could just be fictional natives.

    And where is the uproar elsewhere? This happens all the time, and I even think in some cases it isn’t offensive really. Its the character that matters, not the color of their skin.

    And for example, a black actor, Michael B. Jordan, plays the Human Torch in the new Fantastic 4 movie coming out in August. The Human Torch is white in the original comics. I again think it’s the character that matters, not skin color, but why is this not some huge race issue? It would be if a white actor was cast to play a black superhero.